The Black Sabbath album Tony Iommi called “Awful”

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Black Sabbath’s journey through the rock annals culminated magnificently in 2017 with a triumphant final show in their Birmingham hometown. Yet, their path was fraught with hurdles and dramatic turns, particularly highlighted by lineup changes that steered the band through turbulent waters.

The departure of Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 seemed like a potentially insurmountable challenge, but the arrival of Ronnie James Dio breathed new life into the band. Dio, with his formidable talent, seemed to perfectly complement Black Sabbath, but this harmony was short-lived. By 1982, disputes over the mixing of the “Live Evil” album led to Dio’s exit.

The band’s narrative in the 1980s was marked by a revolving door of vocalists, with the band’s identity seemingly in flux. Among the various singers, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame stepped in and contributed to the 1984 album “Born Again.” This collaboration was anticipated to herald a new chapter for Black Sabbath. However, Tony Iommi later expressed reservations, indicating that the partnership, while promising on paper, did not translate as hoped in practice.

Reflecting on “Born Again” years later, Iommi criticized the album’s production and the fit of Gillan’s vocals with Black Sabbath’s essence, revealing the project’s conception was more a product of legal arrangements than artistic synergy. Iommi’s critique was mirrored by Gillan’s own dissatisfaction, particularly with the album’s production quality. Gillan had high hopes for the record, which were dashed upon hearing the final mix, likening it to a botched scene straight out of “Spinal Tap.”

Gillan’s primary grievance was with the production’s overwhelming bass and overall sound quality, which differed starkly from the studio mixes. This discrepancy between the expected and final sound quality left him and Iommi disillusioned.

The misadventure of “Born Again” underscored a missed opportunity for what could have been a revitalizing partnership for Black Sabbath. Instead, it led to another lineup change, with Gillan’s brief tenure coming to an end. This episode in Black Sabbath’s history is a poignant reminder of the challenges bands face in aligning artistic visions, especially amidst changes in membership.

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